Don't be fooled. Flood-damaged vehicles sold without disclosing the damage is illegal in most states, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.
Too often, when an insurance company declares a flood-damaged car a total loss, that information isn't communicated to potential buyers.
Consumer Reports found that some flood-damaged vehicles are sold with clean titles, meaning a flood-damaged car could easily find its way back into the used-car market.
If a car doesn't carry maximum insurance, flood-damage may not be disclosed in the car's title.
Consumer Reports says a mechanic should conduct a thorough inspection, but there are things you can do, too.
- Start at the front of the car first. Inhale and see if there's any kind of moldy or musty smell. If you have that, you definitely want to walk away from the car.
- Pop up the trim panel on the side of the door. If the carpet is dirty, or if there's any kind of sediment in there or rust, move on.
- Look in the door pockets. If there's any kind of sediment, dirt, or stones, that's something to avoid. When the water rose up into the car, and as it drained away it settled, the debris hid in there.
- Pop off some of the caps and covers for the seat bolts. If they are scratched up or even look rusted, that means the seat was taken out so it could air dry.
- Look where a spare tire would be kept. If it's got sound deadening, or smells musty or moldy that's another red flag. Check if there's any rust on exposed screws on the panels, or even on the tools like the jack or the jack stand.
- Look along the back of the engine bay. When water rises and stays when a car is flooded, it's going to recede and leave a flood line. If there's anything like that, walk away from the vehicle.
And although helpful, Consumer Reports says vehicle history reports are no guarantee that a car is problem-free.
If you're from an area affected by a flood and have a car that wasn't damaged, be aware that buyers might be wary.
Consider having a mechanic inspect your car before you put it up for sale so you can present potential buyers with a clean bill of health.
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